Banksy is one of the most acclaimed street artists of our time. His work is sought out by private collectors and auction houses, stolen from walls, and sits at the heart of many political and social movements. The artist has the ability to make people laugh, gasp and most importantly take a look at their surroundings more closely and contemplate various issues around the world.
Banksy’s signature style is recognised globally but one particular trademark we wanted to take a more in-depth look into is the use of children in his imagery. So, here’s a look at some of Banksy’s girls:
1) Balloon Girl
One of Banksy’s most famous images is Balloon Girl, in fact, a poll carried out by Samsung saw the piece win the accolade of the nation’s favourite piece, beating John Constable’s; The Hay Wain and Jack Vettriano’s; The Singing Butler.
Originally posted on the side of a shop in East London, the imagery became a symbol of hope. However, the piece meant more than money to many people; it became a symbol of hope. This ideology was strengthened when the artist reworked the piece to depict a Syrian refugee with the hashtag ‘#WithSyria’ attached to the mural.
The most recent makeover that Balloon Girl has had was during the 2017 Elections, where Banksy offered a Union Jack version for free to voters that could prove they voted against the Tories. This campaign was short lived after the Electoral Commission became aware of the offer and warned the artist that it could be considered a violation of election bribery laws…
Balloon Girl signifies something different for everyone and we’re pretty sure the variations will keep showing up for a long time yet.
2) Bomb Hugger
The image of Bomb Hugger contrasts the innocence of a young girl with a large military bomb, holding this malignant item like she would a teddy bear. This ironic juxtaposition challenges media which seem to glamourize bombs war and destruction, making it seem a suitable option towards a peaceful solution.
That is just one view, as on the other hand, some see it as a symbol of peace. The little girl has stopped the bombings by spreading her peace and love, overpowering the forces of evil and proving that love can always triumph over hatred. Bomb Hugger allows the viewer to formulate their own opinion which in itself, promotes an unspoken freedom of speech.
3) Petal Girl
The image originally appeared on Brick Lane but since then it has popped up in a variety of locations, and limited printed editions have been available at a few select galleries. The work shows another one of Banksy’s girls, however, this time the figure looks slightly distorted rather than radiating innocence. A police gas mask is fitted on the girl’s face leaving only her pigtails to help the viewer identify her.
If you focus on the girl for a second you will often feel as though she is sad, as if her voice has been silenced. The gasmask representative of some form of authority who have silenced her without thought – as if she is not important, as if she did not have a choice in this silence.
In her hand, she holds a flower with the petals flying off, another item that could be seen as the girl being cast aside. Her silence could be caused by the government, as she is seen as too young to vote or to have a valid opinion. Alternatively, due to the younger generation’s concerns over the environment, the gasmask could represent a future where the environment is no longer stable. This girl may have never been without the gasmask which saddens her.
Then again, maybe she is a sinister character of the story, a mere child soldier manipulated by a ‘toxic’ society to carry the chaos and destruction through to the next generation. Should we fear the little girl behind the mask?
Banksy leaves it up to the viewer to make the final decision on what these images mean, there’s no right or wrong answer. So, what do you see?